Site Safe publishes first-ever report on suicide in construction sector
29 May 2019
In response to concerns about high levels of suicide in the construction industry, Site Safe has published the country’s first report on suicide in the sector. The report reflects the pressures on construction workers who died by suicide and aims to provide evidence to inform future prevention initiatives.
The study reviewed 300 coroners closed case files of suicides of people who work in the construction industry which occurred between 2007 to 2017. Coroners’ reports listed workplace pressures as a factor in nearly a third (32.3%) of all cases.
The workplace pressures mentioned in coroners’ reports included: job insecurity or uncertainty, the stress related to running a business, pressure to deliver under deadlines, juggling responsibilities and dealing with an injury or illness affecting the ability to work. One in eight (13%) of all cases listing workplace pressures included experiences of job insecurity or uncertain work situation.
Notably, people who were self-employed or business owners (11.3% of all cases) were twice as likely to have been impacted by work-related factors than employees of businesses.
The purpose of the research report is to help industry, government, and the wider public understand the risk factors and pressures that can contribute to suicide in the construction industry, so that they can better respond to them.
Commenting on the findings, Brett Murray, Chief Executive of Site Safe says:
“To lose 300 people to suicide in our industry over 10 years is devastating. It’s an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for their workers and this includes protecting physical and mental wellbeing. There has been huge progress in workplace health and safety over the past twenty years, but we all need to play our part in shifting attitudes towards mental health.
“We know that companies and contractors in our industry are looking for help to protect their employees’ mental wellbeing. This report shines a spotlight on the pressures that exist for people working in the construction industry and it’s a first step towards understanding the problem.
“We will be using our voice to share the findings of this report with government, industry leaders and our 6,000 member businesses. As an industry, we need to work shoulder to shoulder to ensure everyone’s mental health is protected, from apprentices to small business owners and employees of large construction companies.”
Overall, the findings show that the construction sector figures reflect the broader trends for male suicide in New Zealand - almost all (99%) of the suicide cases of people who worked in the construction industry recorded over the ten-year period were men. The age-groups most affected were also similar to national male population figures ; with 15% of cases aged 20-24 and 14% aged 45-49.
The report identified no single driver of suicide in the construction industry. It found causes were always complex but there were common factors the industry can work to address, including work stress, financial strain and physical injuries.
Site Safe is already developing a mental health and wellbeing strategy based on the findings of this report.
Reflecting on the findings, Shaun Robinson, Spokesperson for the Mental Health Foundation comments:
“The findings in this report outline some of the pressures on people working in the construction industry. These pressures aren’t unique to the construction industry, but the solutions can be found by getting the industry set-up to address these challenges and improve the mental health of its people.
“Suicide prevention is something for all New Zealanders to work on, but the most effective suicide prevention initiatives are tailored to the environments and cultures of people at risk. In the case of the construction industry, pilots of programmes in New Zealand and Australia have found that initiatives targeted at people who work in the construction industry can prevent suicide and improve mental health and wellbeing.”
The report is co-funded through the building research levy by the Building Research Association (BRANZ) and Site Safe. To download the full report, click here.
For more information about suicide prevention, please go here.
Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE).
0800 726 666.
Note for Māori: You can also contact or visit your local Māori or iwi social and health organisation for support.